Apple Invents a new Adjustable Fit Detection System for a Future Apple Watch Band and more
Patently Apple first covered an Apple Watch patent about an "auto adjustment" band system in 2016. There was a lull on this focus until this year. In fact, Patently Apple posted a granted report on Tuesday titled "Apple has Won a Patent for a next-gen 'Continuous Watch Band' using Highly Elastic Composites." In early January 2023 we covered another granted patent relating to an "adjustable fit" Apple Watch Band. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that once again addresses the desire to provide future Apple Watch users with a superior band fitting experience. Apple also touches on a lock and unlock methodology.
Apple Watch with Fit Detection
In Apple's patent background they note that some watches or other wearable devices have a capability to detect the presence of a user or other object to which it is secured. For example, proximity sensors are capable of detecting the presence of a target without physical contact. Wristwatches may use such detections to determine whether the watch is “off wrist” and should be turned to a locked state or provide other functions. However, for those users who prefer to wear their watch loosely against their wrist, such a proximity sensor may cause unintentional locking of the watch or other undesired consequences.
Accordingly, many patent embodiments relate to systems and methods for detecting the configuration and/or location of a watch and/or watch band with respect to a user. Such detections can be made based on changes in the watch band of the watch. For example, the watch band can have a different length, tension, curvature, securement configuration, or other characteristics when it is on the wrist of the user
Additionally, Apple notes that the watch can generate a signal with an instruction to adjust the fit of the band, selecting an operational mode (e.g., tightening mode, loosening mode, flexibility mode, rigid mode, etc.) of a tensioner coupled to electronic device, and actuating the tensioning element based on the instruction.
Apple's engineers provide patent readers with 16 key clauses or technical points that summarize the invention succinctly as follows:
Clause 1: the detector is further configured to detect, based on the capacitance, whether the watch band is securing the watch to a wrist of a user.
Clause 2: the detector detects, based on the capacitance, that the watch band is not securing the watch to the wrist of the user, the detector is further configured to prevent access to at least one function of the watch until a passcode is provided.
Clause 3: the detector is further configured to detect, based on the capacitance, a tension across the watch band.
Clause 4: the watch band further comprises a tensioner configured to alter an effective length of the watch band.
Clause 5: the tensioner is configured to alter the effective length of the watch band based on the capacitance.
Clause 6: the conductive plates comprise: a ground electrode on a first side of the core; a sense electrode on a second side of the core; and a shield electrode on the second side of the core, the sense electrode being between the ground electrode and the shield electrode to reduce an electric field on a side of the sense electrode that is opposite from the ground electrode.
Clause 7: the conductive plates comprise: a first ground electrode; a second ground electrode; and a sense electrode between the first ground electrode and the second ground electrode.
Clause 8: the sense electrode is separated from the first ground electrode by the core; and the sense electrode is separated from the second ground electrode by an additional core.
Clause 9: the first configuration is achieved when the watch band is securing a watch to a wrist of a user; and the second configuration is achieved when the watch is removed from the wrist of the user.
Clause 10: the first dimension is a length of the watch band in a relaxed configuration; and the second dimension is a length of the watch band in a stretched configuration.
Clause 11: in the first configuration, the watch band is under a first tension; and in the second configuration, the watch band is under a second tension, different than the first tension.
Clause 12: the watch band further comprises: a first band portion having a first engagement element; and a second band portion having a second engagement element; in the first configuration, the first engagement element engages the second engagement element; and in the second configuration, the first engagement element does not engage the second engagement element.
Clause 13: the shield electrode is larger than the sense electrode.
Clause 14: a watch body comprising a detector operably connected to the ground electrode, the sense electrode, and the shield electrode.
Clause 15: the detector is configured to drive the sense electrode and the shield electrode at a same voltage.
Clause 16: the core is configured to transition between a first configuration when the watch band defines a first dimension and a second configuration when the watch band defines a second dimension, different than the first dimension; and the sense electrode and the ground electrode are configured to provide a first capacitance while the core is in the first configuration and a second capacitance, different than the first capacitance, while the core is in the second configuration.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below presents an Apple Watch that is "off-wrist" and set to lock automatically when not on the user's wrist; FIG. 2 presents Apple Watch "on-wrist" unlocking the Watch UI; FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of the watch in a secured configuration on a wrist of a user. The watch band #150 can be formed from a compliant material or into a compliant structure that is configured to easily contour to the wrist of the user. The stretching of the watch band along its length can change at least one characteristic (e.g., capacitance) of at least a portion of the watch band in a manner that is detectable by a capacitance sensor #300 of the watch band.
As shown in Apple's patent FIG. 13 above, the shape of the band can be adjusted in order to adjust the fit of the watch. This type of adjustment can be referred to as a "coiling force." For example, a cross-sectional shape of the band can be defined by an inner periphery of the band, such as along a user engagement surface of the band.
Apple's patent FIG. 15 above illustrates a flow diagram of an example process #1500 for determining an operational state of a watch based on a detected capacitance.
Apple's patent FIG. 16 illustrates a flow diagram of an example process #1600 for controlling a tension of a watch based on a detected capacitance.
For more details, review Apple's patent application # US 20230079679 A1.
- Osamu Yabe: Senior Manager, Apple Watch Product Design
- Rimple Bhatia: Manager, Materials, Product Design
- Will Leith: Materials Informatics Engineer
- Dan LaBove: Hardware Design Engineer
- Yohji Hamada: Senior Product Design Engineer
- Timothy Lui: Product Design Engineer